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Until October 2004, a tour train known as the ‘Montana Daylight’ operated over a portion of the former Northern Pacific (NP) mainline on a 2-day journey from Sandpoint, ID to Livingston, MT, via Missoula, MT, where an overnight stop-over was made (passengers could either overnight in a hotel or in the Bella Vista dome-sleeper-lounge car, both options, as well as meal service, being included in the price of the tour).
The Montana Daylight ran on a section of the route of NP’s premier streamlined passenger train, the ‘North Coast Limited’, which itself ran all the way from Seattle to Chicago, as did it’s replacement – Amtrak’s ‘North Coast Hiawatha’ (so-named because the ex-NP route ran parallel to, & often in sight of, the ex-Milwaukee Road mainline where their streamlined ‘Olympian Hiawatha’ also served the same general locales).
The North Coast Limited was inaugurated on October 29,1900 & operated until the advent of Amtrak in 1971. During Amtrak’s early days there was no service through southern Montana, but the pull of then-governor Mike Mansfield was legendary and he successfully lobbied to have the service reinstated. However in the long run opposing political pressure prevailed & the North Coast Hiawatha made its last run in October 1979.
Equipment on the Montana Daylight consisted of former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Northern Pacific, Great Northern & Union Pacific dome cars, ex-Santa Fe coaches & souvenir car & an ex-Amtrak dining car. Motive power consisted of General Motors SD19 diesel locomotives.
The ex-NP, now Montana Rail Link (MRL), route through Southern Montana was especially scenic, with the train travelling along the Clark Fork river, over Evaro hill, through the Bitterroot mountains, over the continental divide at Mullan Pass, through the Missouri River canyon at Lombard, MT, and over the Bozeman pass to Livingston, MT – gateway to Yellowstone Park.
As mentioned earlier, even the tour train is no longer running & the MRL line is now freight-only, so enjoy these views of General Motors SD19 diesel locomotives hauling a streamliner through the scenic wonders of southwestern Montana.
While the Montana Daylight is no longer running, it is possible to travel through Southern Montana on Amtrak’s Empire Builder and connecting Thruway Service to Livingston where various operators provide tours of Yellowstone Park.